Duke Hit With Lawsuit Over Florida Nuclear Costs

Feb 23, 2016

Duke Energy's now-closed Crystal River plant in Citrus County, Florida.
Credit Duke Energy

Consumers in Florida have filed a class-action lawsuit against Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light over what they say are unconstitutional charges for nuclear plant construction.

Florida regulators allowed the two utilities to bill customers for more than $2 billion in construction costs under a law the state legislature passed in 2006. The suit challenges the law’s constitutionality and seeks recovery of $1.2 billion from Duke and $814 million from Florida Power & Light.  

The suit says that since 2008, Duke has been charging customers for nuclear projects including improvements at the Crystal River plant, in Citrus County, Fla., and two new nuclear generators in Levy County. The company later shut down Crystal River and abandoned the Levy County project.

Florida Power & Light  was given permission to increase capacity at plants in Dade and St. Lucie counties and bill customers.  It’s still seeking a federal license for new reactors at the Turkey Point plant in Dade.

““These two utilities have racked up huge expenses with nuclear power plant projects – some of which they completely abandoned – and have left rate payers holding the bag,” Steve Berman, a lawyer for the consumers, said in a press release. “We believe the consumers in this instance are being forced to pick up the tab for Duke Energy Florida and FP&L in violation of their constitutional rights.”

Duke Energy says the case should be dismissed, based on the failure of similar lawsuits. Here’s a statement from the company Tuesday afternoon:  

“We believe this lawsuit, filed by a Seattle, Washington-based plaintiffs’ law firm, should be dismissed. Four other lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s Nuclear Cost Recovery statute have been found to be without merit and rejected by Florida courts.  Duke Energy is evaluating this lawsuit and will respond based on the facts and applicable law.”